Bickering Could Leave Italy Without a Government For Months
ROME—Italy’s new parliament convened for its first session Friday following elections earlier in March, as bickering among parties suggested the country could face months without a new government.
Informal consultations since the March 4 elections have largely stalled in recent days, with parties bickering over the election of leaders for the two houses of parliament—a first step that would allow President Sergio Mattarella to initiate formal talks.
National elections produced a hung parliament split largely into three blocs. A center-right alliance, including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigration League, obtained 37% of the popular votes, emerging as the largest coalition.
The antiestablishment 5 Star Movement got 32% of the votes and is the biggest single party, while the incumbent Democratic Party trailed with 19%.
On Friday, voting began on the leaders of the two chambers of parliament. In the run-up to the vote, the parties struggled to reach an agreement on the speakers, reflecting deeper divisions that bode ill for the formation of a government.
There is “no obvious path to forming a government,” Federico Santi, an analyst at risk consultancy Eurasia Group said in a note Thursday.
Analysts and politicians see three possible paths to ending the stalemate and producing an alliance that can command a parliamentary majority.
The center-right coalition or the 5 Star Movement could team up with the Democratic Party in a grand coalition. Alternatively, the League could break away from the center-right alliance and form a government with 5 Star. Such an antiestablishment government could spook international investors and is opposed by parts of Italy’s business community.
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Assuming the parties manage to elect speakers of the two houses in the coming days, Mr. Mattarella will likely start consultations with all parties in April.
If the parties fail to agree on a governing coalition, Mr. Mattarella could ask them to form a government led by an independent figure who enjoys cross-party support. Such a government could have a limited agenda, such as overhauling the electoral law in a way that could produce stronger governments. Fresh elections, possibly in 2019, could follow.
If that fails, Mr. Mattarella could call fresh elections as early as autumn.
“The risk of new elections is around the corner,” longtime lawmaker and former speaker of the lower house, Pier Ferdinando Casini, told Italian television Friday.
Write to Giovanni Legorano at firstname.lastname@example.org